x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Emirati graduates give up on teaching

Teaching graduates are giving up their struggle to find jobs in the profession and are switching to alternative careers.

Emirati teaching graduates are giving up their struggle to find jobs in the profession and are switching to alternative careers, according to the head of a leading teacher-training college. They find that school authorities have often filled positions with much cheaper Arab expatriates before the Emirati trainees graduate, university officials say.

Michael O'Brien, the associate academic dean for education at the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), said at least a third of newly qualified teachers looked for opportunities outside of teaching because they "get frustrated waiting" for a job in the nation's schools. Some prospective teachers complain that they are being squeezed out by schools that prefer to hire native English speakers. "We want to have every encouragement we can for Emiratis to become teachers," said Mr O'Brien. "But it's taking up to six months or more to get our graduates interviewed and employed in schools."

He said that while overall employment levels of the 426 Emiratis who have graduated in HCT education courses since 2005 were high, not all secured teaching jobs. "Some of our best and brightest and most committed teachers end up sitting at home, or lured away to other government jobs or the private sector," he said. "We are in danger of losing a generation of teachers." More than six months after she graduated with a bachelor's degree in education, Asma Yaaqoub finally secured a job a few weeks ago.

With work experience in schools, excellent English skills and a degree benchmarked to international standards, the 22-year-old Emirati seemed ideally placed to take a teaching job that would put her at the vanguard of the reforms that many acknowledge government schools need. Yet the post she just accepted was not in teaching. Instead, she is employed in administration by Abu Dhabi Tawteen Council, an organisation promoting Emiratisation.

She is one of dozens of UAE nationals trained in teaching who seem destined never to work in the classroom. Like many others, Miss Yaaqoub has been discouraged from pursuing a career in education by a system that some feel is stacked against them. A graduate of Al Ain Women's College, she went through interviews with the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec), which is responsible for government schools in the emirate. She failed to secure a job.

"Teaching was my first choice, but, because it didn't happen, I changed my view," she said. "When I graduated it seemed easy to get a job, then everything changed. They said they'd like some western teachers instead," referring to Adec's hiring of 456 native English teachers from Australia, Canada, Britain and the US last August. dbardsley@thenational.ae